Saturday, December 21, 2013

Australia's republican grassroots

Governor-General Quentin Bryce's republican vision of a future Australia has tapped into an on-going national conversation that is not going away. 

Governor-General Quentin Bryce
There has been significant support for Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s Back to Grassroots 2013 Boyer Lecture comment when she expressed that  Perhaps one day, one young (Australian) girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first Head of State.” 

When questioned about the Governor-General’s republican vision, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a former National Director of Australians for Constitutional Monarch stated the Governor General is entitled to express her personal opinion. This position was also taken during 4BC Mornings, 25 November 2013 when Greg Cary spoke to Professor Geoff Gallop, Chair of the National Committee for the Australian Republican movement about the Governor General expressing her personal political views during her final Boyer lecture: 

the so called politicisation of her views are a non-issue. It is always the right time to ask the questions on whether Australia should be a republic with our own head of state and to debate a good model for that.”

Peter Fitzsimon’s also argued in the Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 2013 that this is

no more than an honest statement of hope …these are no more '’political statements’' - as her predictable critics have cried - than it would be if she had expressed the hope that we can eradicate poverty. Can anyone really argue that Australia having an Australian head of state … is not an ideal?”

In the 1990s most Australians wanted to make the transition to a republic, but were divided on how to best select the Head of State and, in the absence of a proper process to resolve those differences, the referendum in 1999 was defeated 54.9% to 45.1%.

To resolve this, the Australian Republican Movement proposes that Australians first vote on the question: “should Australia become a republic?” After a successful vote on this issue, all Australians must then be given the right to choose from a range of selection methods for our next Head of State, generated through informed community discussion and proper democratic engagement.

The constitutional mechanism for a national vote is called a ‘plebiscite’. This is a term that is unfamiliar to many Australians as opposed to the more commonly understood ‘referendum’. Australians understand the purpose of a referendum is to vote on changing the Constitution because they have had 19 of them since Federation. However, there have only been two plebiscites since Federation (and they were nearly 100 years ago) and both are usually referred to as referendums. A plebiscite is a direct vote of all citizens on an important public question where they either accept or refuse a proposal whereas a referendum is a vote used to approve a change to the Australian Constitution. In Australia, a plebiscite (also known as an advisory referendum) is used to decide a national question that does not affect the Constitution. It can be used to test whether the government has sufficient support from the people to go ahead with a proposed action. Unlike a referendum, the decision reached in a plebiscite does not have any legal force.

Australia has only ever held two national plebiscites, on 28 October 1916 and 20 December 1917, which both relate to the introduction of conscription during the First World War. The 1916 Australian plebiscite was the first non-binding Australian plebiscite, and contained one question concerning military service. This plebiscite was held due to the Labor government's desire to conscript young Australian men for overseas service during World War 1. It was conducted under the Military Service Referendum Act 1916. It was a plebiscite rather than a referendum because the Australian government already had powers sufficient to introduce overseas conscription. The 1916 and 1917 conscription plebiscites are universally referred to as ‘conscription referendum’.

It was due to the controversial nature of the measure and a lack of clear parliamentary support that saw Prime Minister Billy Hughes take the issue to a public vote to obtain symbolic, rather than legal, sanction for the move. The plebiscite sparked a divisive debate that split the public and the Labor Party in the process, and resulted in a close but clear rejection of the measure. The 1916 and 1917 conscription plebiscites saw a defeat of a question that did not suit the majority view of national voters who supported a volunteer military defence force. This outcome was in opposition to the then Prime Minister’s campaigned stance.  

Polling conducted by the Australian Republican Movement on the Governor-General’s comment reveals:

Agree - 48%
Disagree - 32%
Unsure - 20%

The poll, conducted by UMR, 26 November-2 December 2013, found 65% were aware of the comment. The highest support for the GovernorGenerals comment, at 59%, was in the 60-69 year-old category, and support was also above 50% amongst 18-39 year-olds. This shows evidence of continued, significant support for a republic.

We recognise the issue went quiet for a few years, which explains the high numbers who are ‘unsure’, but it’s time to engage everyone in the conversation and find out how we want to face the future as a nation”, Professor Gallop said.

Geoff Gallup stated in The Australian, 19 November 2013 that

 all nations, whether big or small, need a vision of who they are and where they are; what they stand for and how they intend to project themselves.”

It’s time for us to have a national conversation about a step-by-step transition to a republic, so that our Head of State is one of us, an Australian, to represent our identity, our values and our nation.

With a monarchist current Prime Minister and significant support for Australia to become a republic from the Australian voters, a future republican national vote echoes of the 1916 & 1917 conscription referenda result with this time the national voters championing a virtuous cause against an unpopular Prime Minister.

“Perhaps one day” we will get back to grassroots as a nation and sort out once and for all the establishment of our own Head of State.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Don't let the Kiwis beat us to an Australian republic

On the 14th anniversary of Australia’s republic referendum, New Zealand announced it is set to vote on becoming a republic on the death of the Queen.

(Modified image via / Getty Images)
The New Zealand Labour Party voted at its annual conference last weekend to hold a referendum to become a republic on the death of the Queen and to have a New Zealander as their next Head of State.

This followed the comment by former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark that it is "quaint" that New Zealand does not have a head of State of its own, which are being welcomed by the campaign for a New Zealand head of State.

Helen Clark is in her second term in charge of the United Nations Development Program. On 1 November 2013, after a meeting with Prince Charles (pictured above) to discuss sustainable development issues she stated:
"My view has always been that at some point, New Zealand will become a republic because the longer we go on not having a head of state in New Zealand itself, it becomes more quaint, if you like.”
A Herald on Sunday poll published on 27 January 2013 found only 1 in 3 New Zealanders wanted Prince Charles to become their head of State. The poll of 1,000 New Zealanders found 43.3% didn't want Charles, while 37.4% said they did. (The rest were undecided.)

New Zealand Republican Movement chair, Lewis Holden responded to Helen Clark’s statement:
"In her role at the UN, Helen probably gets to see a lot of the issues raised by our country not having a head of State of its own. At the same time, she acknowledges that the Royal family are fine servants and interested in global issues. That's great for them, but it's really only of benefit to the United Kingdom, because the Royals are, first and foremost, British and not Kiwis.”
ARM national director David Morris (left) with NZ Republican Movement chair Lewis Holden
David Morris, national director of the Australian Republican Movement, responded to the New Zealand labour conference vote by saying:
In Australia we pride ourselves on our love of country and the fair go, but it just won’t be fair if the Kiwis beat us to full independence as a nation. Don’t let the Kiwis beat us to it. Let’s show the world we back Australia.”
Interestingly, it was two days before the 1981 Royal Wedding when the Australian Labor Party declared that Australia should become a republic. At the ALP National Conference in Melbourne, the word ‘republic’ was substituted for ‘nation’ when it endorsed a commitment for reform of the Australian Constitution.

The endorsement of a republic almost seemed to slip through the conference – the vote was 26 to 21 – partly as a result of apparent confusion on the part of the conference chairman, the New South Wales premier, Neville Wran. Wran, for some reason, failed to put to conference a procedural motion which would have deferred a vote on the republican issue until the 1982 conference.

Since then, it has always been ALP Policy to support the creation of an Australian republic. Now, the development of a clear party policy on a New Zealand head of State appears to be firmly on New Zealand Labour's agenda.

Surely, as we approach the end of the Queen’s reign, Aussies will want choice on who heads our nation. Meanwhile, tiny Grenada and Jamaica have signalled moves to become republics within the Commonwealth in coming years. If New Zealand joins them, almost all Commonwealth countries will then have become fully independent as republics before Australia.

C’mon Aussies, we can’t let the Kiwis beat us — not at the rugby, but in becoming a fully-fledged, independent nation.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tony Abbott swears Australia back to the past

There’s been much controversy about PM Tony Abbott’s backward looking ministry, with only one woman and no science minister included. Overlooked by many was that even the oath he swore took Australia backwards.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott being congratulated by the Governor-General Quentin Bryce after he swore allegiance to her boss, the Queen, rather than to the people of Australia. (Image via The Australian)

On Wednesday, 18 September 2013 ‒ the newly minted Australian Prime Minister Abbott returned to the past by swearing allegiance to the Queen whereas both Prime Ministers Rudd and Gillard, on taking office, swore allegiance to Australia.

Responding to this, National Director of the Australian Republican Movement, David Morris, said in a statement:
Our elected representatives should swear allegiance solely to Australia, rather than loyalty to someone born to rule over an Empire long gone. We call upon all elected representatives to pledge 100% loyalty to Australia.’
Prime Ministers Rudd and Gillard, as mentioned above, swore allegiance to Australia.

Prime Minister Abbott followed his conservative predecessor, Prime Minister Howard, by swearing allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II at the official swearing in of the new Government in Canberra.

The ARM’s Morris stated:
‘This is looking backwards when Australia should be confidently facing the future …. It’s no longer appropriate in today’s Australia to have divided loyalties. Back in the early twentieth century, Australians were still called “British subjects” and many still sang “God Save the Queen” but no more. Today our loyalty and our identity is Australian, not colonial.
‘Australia should always come first for our elected representatives.
‘Our nation’s values are democratic, as evidenced by the recent elections for both houses of Parliament. To have an institution sitting above our Parliament, over which a foreign family is born to rule, is out of date with our identity as an independent nation.’
The Australian Republican Movement advocates a fully and unambiguously independent Australia.

It’s worth remembering that on 3 December 2007, one week after the election of the new Rudd Federal Labor government, a ‘very republican moment’ occurred when Kevin Rudd and his ministry swore an oath to
“…the Commonwealth of Australia, its land and its people.”
The significance of this moment was the new Federal ministers swore an Oath under Section 62 of the Australian Constitution to the people of Australia rather to Queen Elizabeth II, a foreign monarch.

When Kevin Rudd was sworn in as the 26th Prime Minister of Australia, wearing R.M. Williams boots and a grin as wide as the verandah of his suburban Brisbane Queenslander, he declared:
I, Kevin Michael Rudd, do swear that I will well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia, her land and her people, in the office of the Prime Minister, so help me God.”
Taking the office of Prime Minister (Executive Councillor) involves swearing an Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation. However, under Section 62 of the Constitution, the form of the oath of office is not prescribed for a minister but by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Of course, the new Oath was given to the Governor-General on Rudd’s advice, yet he could not have technically given that advice until he became an Executive Councillor. No doubt, this advice was relayed earlier, perhaps through or with the approval of the caretaker, John Howard. In taking this Oath, Rudd acknowledged the republican ideal that ultimate political authority lays with ‘the land and the people’ of Australia rather than with the British monarch.

The Rudd Oath should not be confused with the Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation under Section 42 of the Constitution required to be made by a Member of Parliament or Senator before taking his or her seat.

Section 42 involves swearing or affirming to

‘…be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law.’
This Oath was also used for ministers until the Keating Labor government removed reference to the Sovereign. However, with the election of the Howard Liberal government in 1996, the Oath to the Queen was restored but without any reference to ‘Her heirs and successors’.

The real issue behind the question of the Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation concerns where political authority ultimately resides. Does it originate from the divine, from God or from ‘the land and the people’?

Henry Lawson portrait by Lionel Lindsay
Should Australian political authority continue to be derived from the British monarch and, ultimately, God — or should it be acknowledged that popular sovereignty resides in ‘the land and the people’ of Australia? This is a fundamental question for the republican debate.

Republicanism does not acknowledge God as the ultimate source of authority in our society, rather it is ‘the land and the people’.

In 1887, Henry Lawson wrote in his ‘Song of the Republic’:

Sons of the South, make choice between
the land of the morn and the land of the e’en,
the old dead tree and the young tree green,
the land that belongs to the lord and the Queen,

and the land that belongs to you.

Henry Lawson's, Song of the Republic
The ‘currency lads’ of the mid-nineteenth century would often use the toast ‘To the land, boys’.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appeared to have taken Henry Lawson’s advice and chosen “the land that belongs to you” over the land that belongs to the lord and Queen.

Prime Minister Gillard followed the lead set by Rudd, however Abbott has chosen to go back to the past where a foreign family born to rule over Australians is considered acceptable and, indeed, the normal state of affairs.

It is time all Australians advocated for a fully and unambiguously independent Australia.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The spirit of National Wattle Day

September 1 is ‘National Wattle Day’ — a time when the smells of Spring are in the air as well as Australia’s vivid gold blossom.

2013 is the centenary of the addition of a spray of wattle as the background feature to the Australian Coat of Arms. And today, 1 September 2013, is the 20th anniversary of the Australian Republican Movement giving its support to ‘National Wattle Day’ celebrations throughout Australia.

Australians may have made a home for themselves amongst the gum trees, but it is the wattle tree that has found its way into Australian symbolism. It is a symbol that comes directly from our land. Wattle is Australian and represents us all. Unlike other national days, ‘National Wattle Day’ excludes no one. Like our people, wattle has great diversity (with nearly 1,000 species) and resilience. It is a unifying symbol for all Australians. There is no other symbol that says so much about us and our land.

‘National Wattle Day’ is celebrated annually on the first day of Spring, when a sprig of Australia’s official national floral emblem, the Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha is traditionally worn. Australian Olympic athletes wear wattle inspired green and gold uniforms. Governor General Sir William Deane took wattle blossoms to Switzerland to commemorate young Australians who died there and Prime Minister John Howard wore sprigs of wattle at ceremonies after the Bali bombings.

The green and gold of the Golden Wattle leaves and blossoms were declared national colours in 1984 and in 1988 the wattle was adopted as the official national flower.

The 1st of September 1992 was formally declared as ‘National Wattle Day’ by then Minister for the Environment, Ros Kelly, and on 1 September 1993, the Australian Republican Movement gave its support to Wattle Day celebrations.

Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said:
“I am from this land. This place is home.”
Like the Southern Cross, the appeal of the wattle is not first and foremost to the idea of the nation — but to the idea of place. ‘National Wattle Day’ captures something crucial to the success of the republic — a feeling for country and a spirit of place. It is from this sense of place that the spirit of the future republic will emerge.

The first known use of wattle as a meaningful emblem in the Australian colonies was in Hobart Town in 1838, when a resident suggested wearing a sprig of wattle to celebrate the golden jubilee of the landing at Sydney Cove. There was, in this seemingly small gesture, a suggestion of an independent Australia.

At a regatta in 1842 to mark the anniversary of Tasman’s discovery of Van Diemen’s Land, many of the celebrant’s again wore a sprig of wattle.

The Golden Wattle was the first symbol of the Adelaide Australian Natives’ Association’s ‘Wattle Blossom League’. On Foundation Day, 26 January 1891, the Adelaide ANA represented itself with a Wattle Blossom Banner embroidered with Golden Wattle by its ladies’ branch.

But it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that an official Wattle Day was proclaimed after a suggestion made by the naturalist Archibald Campbell in Sydney. Campbell’s suggestion led to a meeting to form a Wattle Day League which coordinated the states into celebrating the first Wattle Day on 1 September 1910. The Wattle Day League was a patriotic society in the vein of the Australian Natives’ Association. The day was a celebration of the unique land, people and institutions of Australia, and was marked in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney with activities including the planting of wattle trees in the school grounds, decorating public sites with wattle and wearing wattle.

At the time the Sydney Morning Herald wrote:
To the native born Australian the wattle stands for home, country, kindred, sunshine and love — every instinct that the heart deeply enshrines.”
The celebration of the day continued until the beginning of the First World War.

Wattle first appeared on Australia’s Coat of Arms 100 years ago when the Andrew Fisher had taken a keen interest in the complex question of national identity and set about to ‘Australianise’ our government system and national symbols. Home-grown symbols, he knew in his heart, were essential for a nation so young.
Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 18 January 1913 promulgated a new Coat of Arms for Australia.  During 1911 and 1912, Labor Prime Minister

Among the significant changes made in the 1913 Coat of Arms was the inclusion of a spray of wattle as a background feature and a Federation Star, and instead of a shield displaying the English cross of St George, there was one showing the emblems of the six states.

Wattle Day Association President, Terry Fewtrell stated:
It is all the more appropriate that Wattle is the background of our national Coat of Arms, as it has been here for millennia. Wattle has welcomed us all – indigenous, colonial and modern day immigrants.”
Wattle has been the great witness to the entire Australian story.

‘National Wattle Day’ is about land and people. Wattle is the blaze of colour that paints Australia’s landscape every year. It is the gold that blends with the eucalypt green to form the green and gold around which Australians so willingly unite. Because wattle springs organically from the land it bonds Australians as a people to the land. As a living expression of land, wattle links us to the earliest occupation of the Australian continent. Indigenous Australians used wattle for thousands of years as a season marker (a sign that the whales were coming), as a source of food, and the raw material of hunting and sound instruments. This is part of wattle’s wonderful heritage as a unifying symbol of land, people and the nation — a symbol that has no unpleasant baggage.

Wattle is a broad and inclusive symbol. It grows in all parts of Australia, differing varieties flowering throughout the year. It links all Australians, from the first to the newest at citizenship ceremonies. It touches all levels of society, from very early pioneers and World War 1 diggers (buried with a customary sprig of wattle) to victims of the Bali bombings and the nation’s best who are honoured with Order of Australia awards with insignia designed around the wattle flower.

The wattle flower symbolises an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry. The democracy of wattles – the fact that they grow in all states – was the overpowering reason why the wattle and not the waratah was chosen as the floral emblem in the early twentieth century. In September 1981, historian Manning Clark wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald:
“I love the spring. It means the wattle comes out again. It is a symbol of everything one loves about Australia and the ideal of the uniqueness of Australia. To me every spring holds out the hope that it won’t be long before Australia is completely independent [but I also] share Henry Lawson’s view that blood should never stain the wattle.”
In other words, independence of course, but peacefully achieved.

Wattle is a metaphor for innocence and hope, the constant promise of rebirth, that simple and powerful beauty of the wattle flower — indigenous, Australian, unsullied by the memory of war and destruction. So, when the blaze of wattle lights up the Australian landscape each year, let’s all remember that the wattle is a symbol of our land that unites us all.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No place for Princes in modern Australia

Yet again, monarchists are up in arms after the Duke of Edinburgh Awards have removed Prince Philip’s monogram from all their logos.

Prince Philip's logo - gone
IN AN EFFORT to maintain relevance with the youth of Australia the Duke of Edinburgh Awards have removed Prince Philip’s monogram from all of their logos and replaced it with the strongest symbol of popular sovereignty, the shape of the Australian continent.

Again, the Chicken Little’s in the monarchist coop are again crying foul and ‘republicanism by stealth’. They’re running around − again − clucking that the sky will fall in.


Because the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in Australia have removed Prince Philip’s royal monogram from all of their logos and replaced it with the strongest symbol of popular sovereignty — the shape of the Australian continent.

The removal of Prince Philip’s monogram follows on the heels of the removal in 2012 of the oath to the Queen by Girl Guides Australia something Scouts Australia had done over ten years ago. It appears the youth movements of Australia understand that, to increase membership, they have to appeal to multicultural Australia rather than a by-gone British Australia. Overt symbols of royalty have no place in twenty-first century Australia and perhaps nor do any references to the British crown.

On 1 September 1956, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II helped to found the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (commonly abbreviated DofE),  in order to give young people “a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities”.
It is an award given for completing a program of activities: volunteering service to individuals or the community; improving physical activities; developing practical and social skills and personal interests; and planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey. This can be undertaken by anyone aged 14 to 24.

Over 57 years, the DofE has spread to all Commonwealth countries. However, Australia is the only country where Prince Philip’s monogram has been removed from the award’s logo. If it was in preparation for his inevitable demise – at 92 he may not be long for this world – then this is not necessary, as succession planning appears to be in place, with his son, Prince Edward, taking a keen interest in the organisation. And even if this was true, then why has no other Commonwealth country followed suit? It’s more likely the DofE people have looked at the same membership rate projections as the Girl Guides and realised that, to remain relevant and viable in an Australian setting,, they must become multicultural with a focus on service to this country.

On a separate, but related, note, I’ve recently come to realise my own republicanism may be partly founded in my family’s strong scouting tradition. My mother was a cub Scout leader for over 20 years and my father celebrates, in 2013, his 60th year in the Scout Movement.

Don Davies
For 50 years, my father has served as a Scout Leader in both Townsville and Charters Towers. Having joined Cutheringa Scout Group, Townsville, as a boy in 1953 he passed through the Senior Scout and Rover ranks before becoming a Rover Leader and a Scout Leader in Townsville. When he and my mother relocated to Charters Towers in 1973 he immediately transferred his energies to the Richmond Hill Scout Group. He had no idea, at the time, he would still be involved in the Scout movement 40 years later. When asked what his ongoing motivation was as a Scout leader he reflected:
Service is the scouting motto, service to family, to friends, the community and country. Service is the price we pay for our time on Earth.”
Lord Robert Baden-Powell
Growing up in a north Queensland Scouting family, the concepts of active and informed citizenship and service to your community and country were instilled in me and my brothers from a very young age.

However there was never any talk of loyalty to the Queen. The “duty to the Queen” reference in the Scout Promise was never emphasised. In fact, it was almost a no-go area. Ironically I think I may have grown up in a republican Scouting family. Not in any overt way but through an emphasis on service to your own community and country.

My father and all the other Scout movement leaders I remember growing up in the 1970s and 1980s were all men skilled in bush craft with a strong sense of community service. Although I do recall a print of a young Queen Elizabeth II on a horse above the Scout Hut door, there were never any discussions about fealty to the British monarch. Even mentions of Lord Baden-Powell and the beginnings of Scouting were rare. For these men, their focus appeared more with the boys of their community and service to their country. Flowing through them was a strong Australian nationalism founded in a love of the Australian bush not for a Queen ‘over the seas’.

Over the years, my father has seen a lot of changes in the Scout movement, including opening up membership to girls as well as boys and changes in uniform.

In the early 2000s, Scouts Australia made a conscious effort to modernise the Scout movement by scrapping its khaki uniform in favour of navy blue shorts and hat. This was based on research that the Scout movement was seen as militaristic and this was maybe something that was stopping kids either joining Scouts or staying in Scouts. The uniform change worked as Scout numbers around Australia have risen since then.

Richard Miller, Scouts Australia

Since the publication of Scouting for Boys in 1908, all Scouts and Guides around the world have taken a Scout (or Guide) Promise to live up to ideals of the movement. The Scout Promise has varied slightly over time and from country to country. Richard Miller, national chief executive of Scouts Australia, explained that in 2001 the Scout Promise was changed so that an individual had the option to omit reference to the Queen.

Miller said:
“As far as the promise is concerned, in 2001 we introduced an alternative promise which included a commitment to Australia. We answered to the needs of our members at a time when they wanted an option.”
Similarly, the change to the Girl Guides of Australia 40-year-old pledge to Queen and to God involved a survey of all 28,000 guides and leaders on changing their promise.

After 18 months of intensive consultation of Australia’s largest volunteer girls group, most of them girls between the ages of 10 and 14, it was agreed to drop the pledge of allegiance. The refreshed Girl Guides’ promise has its 28,000-strong group now promising to do their best “to be true to myself and develop my beliefs” rather than to “do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country“.
NSW Guides Commissioner Belinda Allen said:
We are very much hopeful with the new wording to the promise that we’ll be seen as more inclusive and modern and relevant organisation and many more people will like to join us.”
In the new Girl Guide promise, ‘loyal’ has been replaced with ‘respect’ and ‘helpful’ replaced with ‘considerate’.

The old Guide Promise:
I promise that I will do my best:
To do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country;
To help other people; and
To keep the Guide Law.
The new Guide Promise:
I promise that I will do my best:
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve my community and Australia
And live by the Guide Law.
The modernisation of the Girl Guide pledge reflects Girl Guides desire to move with the times in the understanding that Australia is changing; it speaks of this nation seeking its own identity as part of being Australian.

The removal of the personal monogram of the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Australia is another example of how the youth of Australia do not want to be confronted by any requirement to display fealty to royalty — a concept that not only has no place in modern Australia, but has actively decreased youth membership of Scouts Australia and Girl Guides Australia.

The Chicken Little’s in the monarchist coop have no reason to cluck on about ‘republicanism by stealth’. The significant changes occurring within Australia’s youth organisation’s is a reflection of their aspirations and values. For them, allegiance resides within their community and their country.

It seems my father and my hardy old Scout Leaders from north Queensland had the right idea all the time — it’s all about service to community and country, which at its core is grounded in the republican concept of virtue. It is here, within Australia, that virtue lays — not in a feudal castle over 9,000km away on the other side of the world.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Project Republic

It’s time for some straight talk about Australia’s future. We need a head of state who shares a genuine affinity with our country. True independence does not require us to relinquish affection for the Queen or downplay excitement about a royal birth or wedding. Rather it is a chance for national renewal, and to lend an Australian dignity to the highest office in the land. In short: to decide what kind of country we want to live in.

The Australian Republican Movement (ARM) has recently begun a new campaign aimed at restarting a conversation with Australians about who we are and what we can be.  The campaign, designed to get the republic back on the agenda, was successfully trialled in Tasmania, where it received the endorsement of the leaders of the three major parties, and was recently launched in New South Wales to a 350-strong crowd at a fundraiser with Malcolm Turnbull, Tom Keneally and Jane Caro.
Republic Clubs are forming on university campuses throughout Australia, with fundraisers, forums and stalls being held or scheduled in all states. With support from Tim Fischer to Malcolm Turnbull, Wayne Swan and Christine Milne, the ARM has been delighted with the public endorsements of the campaign across the political divide.

Benjamin Thomas Jones
Mark McKenna
On 3 June 2013 the ARM hosted the book launch of Project Republic, edited by Benjamin Thomas Jones and Mark McKenna, published by Black Inc Books. The book was officially launched at Parliament House, Canberra by then Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan and Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Featuring forewords by Malcolm Turnbull and Wayne Swan, Project Republic unites a range of passionate Australian voices to show why Australia must become a republic – and how we can get there from here. Contributors include Henry Reynolds, Thomas Keneally, Larissa Behrendt, John Hirst, Julian Morrow, Helen Irving, Mark Tredinnick, John Warhurst, David Morris, George Williams, Joy McCann, Erika Smith, Anthony Dillon, Paul Pickering, James Curran, David Donovan and George Winterton.  

At the book launch National Director of the Australian Republican Movement, David Morris, signalled a new, grass roots push to get the nation’s unfinished business and great bipartisan project – an Australian republic – on the agenda.

Some say ‘just come up with a model, it’s all about how you select the Head of State, fix that and the rest will follow’. It’s the old top down approach that worked so well, never”, said Mr Morris.

The Australian Republican Movement has learned from the past. We have learned from repeated examples of political leaders who thought they had clever policy initiatives all stitched up but then couldn’t implement them because they hadn’t adequately consulted. So we are listening to what Australians say.

A fully independent Australia, a republic, has to be a grass roots celebration of being Australian. It must not be imposed from above, as the British monarchy is currently imposed upon us with no broad public consent. Something as fundamental as who we are and how we want to be seen in the world, has to start with a good old fashioned Aussie barbecue conversation.”

We need to turn the republic debate upside down, putting people first.

Here's a special offer to Australian Republican Movement members, a discount price  on the book everyone is talking about, Project Republic.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy third birthday IA — the voice of an independent Australia

Independent Australia turned three yesterday. I remember how three years ago the first article was published. This was the day after the night of the ‘long knives’ when Julia Gillard rolled Kevin Rudd. As Rudd was being politically assassinated, Independent Australia emerged as an independent Australian voice.

Since those early days, Independent Australia has become the premier republican voice in Australia. Within the space of three years Independent Australia has become the modern day version of The Bulletin in its heyday of the 1880s and 1890s.

Australia has a long tradition of independent, republican journalism. This tradition was first established in newspapers such as the People’s Advocate and the Empire of the 1840s and 1850s, supported in The Age in the 1870s and 1880s, and a constant theme in publications in the 1890s such as the Newcastle Radical, the Wagga Hummer, the Cairns Advocate, the Melbourne Tocsin, the Hobart Clipper, and John Norton’s Truth. But it was in the pages of the Bulletin in the 1880s and 1890s where the flowering of republican ideals can be seen to emerge.

Over the past three years, the task of documenting our shared republican history has been taken on by writers such as senior correspondent Barry Everingham, Dr Benjamin Thomas Jones, Lewis Holden, Scott Crawford, Dr Klass Woldring, John Skene, Robert Vose, Roy McKeen, Yves Sanz, Alan Austin, Kelly Butterworth, Sarah Brasch, Len Liddelow as well, of course, as myself and David Donovan himself. But there is still a great deal more to document. Australia’s republican past has a rich and deep seam. It’s important to remember though that our future is inextricably linked to our shared past.

Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia, a nation that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens, its environment and its future. A country that is fair and free.

Interestingly, 100 years ago the then Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher was attempting to ‘Australianise’ our government system and national symbols. Fisher took a keen interest in the complex question of national identity. Home-grown symbols, he knew in his heart, were essential for a nation so young. The fragile cultural fabric needed connections, some stitching, and some leadership.

Among other initiatives, such as the introduction of the Australian penny in 1911, Fisher had the Australian Coat of Arms (designed by the College of Arms in England) remodelled to give it a more Australian flavour by having wattle included as the decoration surrounding the Coat of Arms. 100 years later David Donovan continues to fight the good fight of Fisher’s to create an independent Australia.

It has been a long time since Australia has had such a strong republican voice as Independent Australia. Australia’s republican voice has been lost for a long time. There have certainly been many writers, artists, academics, and politicians who have actively advocated for an Australian republic over the past century, however they have not had a home where they can all shelter under the same roof. Independent Australia has become that space, a republican space — a republican civic space where republicans and others can debate the issues that are important to our political and civic future. Republican voices now have a home. All families need a home. Thanks to David Donovan and all the contributors to Independent Australia, the republican tribe can begin to look around and see who they are.

Congratulations to Managing Editor David Donovan who has nurtured his baby to this milestone and here’s to a long, independent life — and remember, every tribe needs a home.

IA managing editor David Donovan — at home.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Vale Hazel Hawke - First Among Equals

Hazel Hawke was a great Australian ― and a great Australian republican.

On Thursday 23 May 2013, Hazel Hawke AO (born 20 July 1929), ex-wife of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke from 1983 to 1991, died peacefully at the age of 83 after succumbing to complications of dementia. Tributes from across the political spectrum have poured in for Mrs Hawke, who shared the highs and lows of the political roller-coaster life with her husband. The former First Lady has been remembered as a wonderful, gutsy and compassionate Australian, who touched the lives of everyday people.

Portrait of Hazel Hawke by Sally Robinson. Source:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard paid tribute to the former first lady:

Ordinary Australians saw the best of themselves in Hazel – many women of her generation will feel they have lost a friend. Hazel was one of those rare people who are liked and respected in equal measure. Her warmth and generosity of spirit in success were only matched by her courage and dignity in adversity. We have lost a wonderful Australian.”

During an interview on 7.30 (23/5/2013), Leigh Sales recalled that during an interview with her daughter, Sue Pieters-Hawke, about 18 months ago, she had said that she thought her mother’s enduring legacy was “that she appealed to our better judgment”. In response, Hazel Hawke’s friend Wendy McCarthy said:
She brings out our better selves. She does. She has that capacity to make people feel they can live up, they can be – they can find their noble purpose in a way. There’s something about their inner soul and they feel able to talk – they felt able to talk to her about it without feeling silly. It’s a very unusual and rare capacity. And Hazel could talk to anyone, anywhere and listen to them and have that sense of the better self come out.”
It was this connection with the people of Australia that resulted in her successful election to the 1998 Constitutional Convention as a NSW Australian Republican Movement delegate.

The 1998 Constitutional Convention was probably the high tide mark for republicanism in Australia. In February 1998, 152 delegates gathered in Canberra to decide how a new Australian head of state would replace the British monarchy, which had been at the core of the Australian Constitution for 97 years.
At the beginning of the Constitutional Convention, there was an overt assumption that the republic was going to happen. Even the then Prime Minister, the staunch monarchist John Howard grudgingly conceded, when he opened the two-week convention, that history may be on the republican’s side. Howard said:
In my view, the only argument in substance in favour of an Australian republic is the symbolism of Australia sharing its legal head of state with a number of other nations is no longer appropriate.”
It seemed the central question of whether Australia should become a republic at all was hardly to be a feature at the Constitutional Convention and that it had all been decided by consensus already. More than half the delegates were committed republicans, including politicians, church leaders, sports stars and household names such as Janet Holmes-a-Court, Australia’s most powerful businesswoman, and Poppy King, a 25-year-old entrepreneur known as the ‘lipstick queen’’ because of her multi-million dollar cosmetics empire.

Prime Minister John Howard had promised that if the Constitutional Convention could agree on a republican model by the time it wound up on 13 February 1998, the government would put such a model to the Australian people in a referendum in 1999. If the referendum passed, then Australia would become a republic in time for its centenary in January 2001. Unfortunately it was during the next two weeks that the cracks within the republican groups over the key question of how an Australian president should be appointed, and what powers the office should have, began to emerge. It was these cracks that eventually brought about the division within the YES campaign and the ultimate defeat of the republican referendum on 6 November 1999.

Framed certificate conferring life membership of the Australian Republican Movement to Hazel Hawke. (Source: John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.)

During 1999, Hazel Hawke was enlisted by the Australian Republican Movement to promote the YES campaign to older Australians. She was guardedly optimistic about the referendum outcome. “But I’m not convinced that we’ll win,” she said.

In October 1999, she issued a warning:

It would be “just plain dopey” for Australians to retain the monarchy at next month’s republic referendum. Mrs Hawke said Australia would be seen by outsiders as irresponsible if the NO campaign was successful on 6 November. The ex-wife of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said it was inappropriate for the Queen of England to remain Australia’s head of state and she urged parents to consider whether they would want to deny their children the chance to aspire to be Australian president. It’s much more appropriate to have an Australian figurehead.

Although Hazel Hawke had a strong credibility rating with the Australian people, there was a need at the time for a lot more women as republican leaders. Unfortunately, the ARM did not use women in the same way as the NO campaign did with Kerry Jones and Pauline Hanson, with Hazel Hawke not having as high a public profile on day-to-day issues about the republic.

The republican movement is feeling the loss of such a strong republican stalwart and offers the greatest sympathy and respect to her family and friends for their loss.

Vale Hazel Hawke. A great Australian ― and a great Australian republican.